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Bertone files for bankruptcy

Design study: Bertone styled the Jaguar B99 concept that debuted at the 2011 Geneva motor show but it never made it to production.

Famed Italian design house Bertone looks for buyers as bankruptcy deadline looms


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28 Mar 2014

ICONIC Italian automotive design house Bertone has reportedly filed for bankruptcy following years of mounting debt and a sluggish European economy.

A Bertone spokesperson confirmed to UK publication Autocar that the company had officially entered bankruptcy proceedings and that it had until April this year to find a buyer.

The report states that without a new owner, the Italian court would be forced to liquidate the company and sell its assets to pay off creditors. While a number of interested parties have shown interest, the future remains uncertain.

Bertone’s unnamed spokesperson also spoke with UK newspaper The Telegraph earlier this month, confirming that the court was evaluating “proposals from foreign companies” to purchase the struggling design house.

“The problem is many debts and very high costs. At the moment everything is blocked,” the spokesperson said. “People haven’t been coming to work for a month and a half now.” Rumours of the company’s financial issues have been swirling for months, with some pointing to its absence at this year’s Geneva motor show in early March as sign of trouble. Reports suggest that the company had not paid its 160 employees for several months, making it impossible to file their taxes for 2013.

While the interested parties have not been identified, it is believed that some plan to re-hire a percentage of the existing workforce, while others simply have an interest in accessing the Bertone name.

In 2008, Bertone was forced to separate its design arm and its coach-building operations to ensure it remained in business after being badly affected by the European financial crisis.

Fellow Italian company Fiat bought the production side of the business as a part of a joint-venture with the Italian government in 2009, returning it to profitability on the back of producing the Ghibli mid-size sedan and the new Quattroporte for Maserati.

The famed design house – which celebrated its centenary in 2012 – has styled some of the most iconic production cars and one-off concepts in automotive history.

While the company has produced designs for almost all major Italian car-makers including Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati, it has also styled production cars for other European companies such as Citroen, Volvo, Opel, Jaguar and Aston Martin.

Some of its most recognisable designs have been for supercar-maker Lamborghini, including the Miura from 1966 with its flowing lines and unmistakable “eyelashes” surrounding the headlights remaining one of the most beloved automotive designs to this day.

Bertone continued its relationship with Lamborghini by designing the original Countach revealed at the 1972 Geneva motor show.

During the 1970s, Bertone produced several sportscar concepts using an edgy design aesthetic combining sharp angles and wedge-like shapes. The Lancia Stratos, Maserati Kamshin, Alfa Romeo Carabo and Lamborghini Urraco P250 all carried elements of this styling.

In the 1980s, European car-makers such as French brand Citroen sought Bertone’s expertise to design production cars including the hugely successful BX hatch and the angular XM mid-size hatch and wagon in 1989 that some regard as the last true Citroen.

Fiat’s second-generation Panda was penned by Bertone, but one of its sexier designs was the X1-9 mid-engined sports coupe that started life as a Fiat, but swapped its badge for Bertone in 1982.

Opel tapped the design house more than once to style coupe and convertible versions of its Astra small car, with the second-generation version of the drop-top offered in Australia with Holden badges until the arrival of the AH Astra in 2004.

The company’s automotive design has not been limited to cars, with Iveco and Scania building Bertone-styled trucks, while the unusual BMW C1 enclosed scooter from 2000 was both designed and built by Bertone.

More recently, Bertone produced design concepts such as the Aston Martin Rapide Bertone Jet 2+2 that was shown at the 2013 Geneva motor show and the Jaguar B99 sedan concept from the 2011 Swiss automotive extravaganza.

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